NCAA Football

The Hottest and Coldest Players in College Football Post Week 10

It's a common practice to check the weather forecast to see how it may impact a college football game. This should be extended to checking the temperature of certain players, who seem to be heating up even as the weather cools while others are somehow colder than the climate.

Hot and cold streaks happen all the time, but for these players the trend up or down doesn't look to be stopping any time soon. Those on a roll look to continue carrying their teams forward, while the ones on a downward spiral are trying to figure out how to reverse the trend.

Check out our list of the hottest and coldest players in college football at this point in the season.

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Can Urban Meyer Save Himself from Irrelevance?

We still believe in Urban Meyer because, well, he's Urban Meyer. And we still believe in Ohio State because history tells us to and because, well, Urban Meyer's the coach.     

It isn't time to give up on either of those truths yet, but at some point a little evidence would be nice. That doesn't include scoring 60 points on Illinois or Purdue or Indiana.

Meyer has opened up about the unhealthy obsession he had with winning when he was at Florida. Every chance he gets, he now insists that he has changed. He smells the roses.

I wonder: Does a guy obsessed with winning championships find less pressure in being irrelevant? Or more? That's where Meyer stands now if we're being honest. It's why this Saturday's game at Michigan State means so much to him. It is the only marquee game of the season for the entire Big Ten.

Meyer needs a big win at Ohio State. It would be his first.

He has had few big-game opportunities at Ohio State, thanks to the mess Jim Tressel left and the weakness of the Big Ten. He has had to play this year without his quarterback, too. Still, in nearly three years at Ohio State, guess how many teams ranked in the top 10 he has beaten.

Doesn't a winning-addict feel pressure from that?

"I could give you the coachspeak and say I don't feel it,'' Meyer said this week on the conference coaches teleconference with reporters. "I feel it. I won't say personal pressure. Ohio State pressure. That has been brought up a couple times.''

This cannot be what Meyer had in mind when he came to Ohio State. It seems almost impossible, but the Buckeyes aren't getting any national attention—not even Meyer is. They are ranked 14th in the College Football Playoff poll, second lowest among one-loss teams in the power five conferences.

Meyer is a big-game coach, even if the one he lost to Alabama in the SEC title game sent him to the hospital. He won two national championships, and then left to work on his health. Florida has yet to recover.

And when Meyer decided to return to coaching a year later, the feeling was that he'd be able to bring the SEC to the Big Ten. But the Big Ten is absolutely killing Ohio State by not providing decent competition. It has rendered Meyer irrelevant.

Just a theory, but the only thing worse than losing for a winning-addict is not competing at all. Boredom is stressful.

Ohio State 66, Kent State 0

Ohio State 50, Cincinnati 28.

Ohio State 56, Rutgers 17

And last week, Ohio State 55, Illinois 14.

Meyer told Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel that late in the Illinois game, he was already thinking about Michigan State, talking to an assistant coach about plans for big-game week.

He hasn't had many of these opportunities at Ohio State. But when he's had them, he hasn't won.

For most of this first two years at Ohio State, Meyer came across like the coaching legend he is. He took a team on probation and won 24 straight games. Then, the Buckeyes lost the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State last year.

Since then, everything has gone backward.

That might sound like an overstatement, but after losing to Michigan State, the Buckeyes lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. They lost quarterback Braxton Miller for the season with a shoulder injury before the opener. And in the second game, the lost at home to Virginia Tech. That was three losses in four games.

Sure, you can argue that Meyer has done a great job of holding things together while developing freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett. But how do you know that, considering the row of patsies Ohio State has beaten?

It's hard to know what's real and what's just image with Ohio State and Meyer. I mean, are we sure the Buckeyes aren't dropping off like the rest of the Big Ten? But just when you ask a question like that, or start to doubt Meyer, he comes up with something. Barrett has been improving and Michigan State's defensive backs aren't as good as they were last year.

Meanwhile, though, Meyer needs for Michigan to rebuild itself. That was a national spotlight game for Ohio State, too. A Big Game Week. But the Wolverines have not held up their end of the bargain. Meyer said this week that Michigan is Ohio State's rival, not Michigan State.

He might want to adjust his thinking on that. Michigan State is the only thing the Big Ten can send his way.

The players are starting up the hype. Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones said at the Spartans' weekly press conference that Barrett is better than Miller at QB. That sent Miller into a Twitter rant, and he tweeted: 

If it helps: Jones led Michigan State with eight tackles in the Rose Bowl. Stanford noticed.

The little back-and-forth is only good for the Big Ten. Anything to draw eyeballs.

It's also Meyer's only chance left this year to remind us that, well, he's Urban Meyer.

 

Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for the New York Times and was formerly a scribe for FoxSports.com and the Chicago Sun-Times. Follow him on Twitter @gregcouch.

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USC Football: 2015 Recruits Trojans Need to Land

USC is operating with a full allotment of scholarships in its 2015 recruiting—the first time the program has enjoyed that luxury in three years. 

Head coach Steve Sarkisian is making the most of his opportunity with the shroud of NCAA sanctions lifted, already putting together a signing class that 247Sports ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 9 in the nation

But Sarkisian and his staff have a chance to take the 2015 recruiting class to an even higher level by adding a few of the top targets still remaining on the Trojans' board. 

USC is in the mix for some of the nation's premier offensive and defensive talent. These are players capable of making immediate impacts, much like 2014 signees Toa Lobendahn, John "JuJu" Smith and Adoree' Jackson.

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USC Football: 2015 Recruits Trojans Need to Land

USC is operating with a full allotment of scholarships in its 2015 recruiting—the first time the program has enjoyed that luxury in three years...

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Texas A&M Football: Who Is the Aggies' X-Factor vs. Auburn?

The Texas A&M football team will take on the Auburn Tigers Saturday in Auburn, Alabama. The Texas A&M player who could have the largest impact on the outcome of the game is freshman receiver Speedy Noil.

The Aggies' true freshman receiver has quickly become the team's biggest threat on the offensive side of the football. The 6'0", 193-pound athlete has developed into a game-breaking threat on offense and special teams. 

The Texas A&M football team is 6-3 on the season with a 2-3 record in the SEC. The Aggies have struggled mightily on offense during a recent four-game stretch that has seen them held scoreless in eight of their 12 quarters of play. 

The one constant during that stretch has been the strong play of Noil at receiver and in the return game. The Aggies offense is struggling to find an identity right now, but one player they can count on every week is Noil. 

 

Freshman of Influence

Noil has progressed during his freshman season into being the most effective receiver on the Aggies  roster. During the previous four games, Noil has led the team with 23 receptions for 256 yards and three touchdowns. 

While many of the Texas A&M players appear to be going through the motions, Noil is stepping up his game. When true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen was forced into the starting lineup against Louisiana-Monroe, Noil led the team with five receptions for 69 yards including an incredible 39-yard touchdown grab. 

The Aggies spent much of the Louisiana-Monroe game in the pistol formation on offense. They only put two wide receivers out wide in their base formation. That formation makes it much easier for the secondary to defend the pass.

Noil was able to have some success against the Warhawks even with that handicap. An argument can be made that Noil is the Aggies' best receiver nine games into his career.

 

The Return Game

Noil has quietly put together an outstanding season on special teams. He currently ranks No. 7 in the nation in punt returns, averaging 15.9 yards per return. Noil's 39-yard return down to the 12-yard line set up the Aggies' second touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe.

He has not returned a punt for a touchdown yet but does have a 67-yard return on the season. Through nine games, he has returned 11 punts for 175 yards. He also leads the team in total yardage on kick returns with 349 yards on 16 returns.

The freshman receiver will need to have a big game against Auburn in the return game. The Aggies offense is struggling to get first downs. It picked up just two first downs in the second half against Louisiana-Monroe.

In order to score against Auburn, the Texas A&M offense is going to need short fields against the Tigers defense. It will need Noil to have some nice returns in order to create those short fields.

The Aggies will start Allen on the road at Auburn. Noil will need to give the Aggies positive field position to keep the pressure off of Allen. 

It will take a monumental team performance for the Aggies to get a win on the Plains. Noil could be the catalyst for the team finding a way to pick up a crucial victory on the road. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch High School RB Drag Defender 31 Yards on His Back

Some players are known for putting their teams on their backs. Then, there's Stephen Carr out of Fontana, California, who took that concept to another level. 

The season is winding down, but it's not too late to create highlights and remember your big games. Log in to Hudl and highlight any plays from your past games that you want to appear on your athlete profile. Once they're saved, you can share them with family, friends and recruiters.

Was this the craziest play you've seen this season?

Watch the video and let us know!

Highlights courtesy of Hudl


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Top Recruits Who Will Become Key Figures in the LSU-Alabama Rivalry

Alabama and LSU resume a storied rivalry Saturday when the Crimson Tide travel to Baton Rouge for an annual SEC showdown. The conference heavyweights often battle off the field as well, routinely competing for elite talent along the recruiting trail.

These coveted high school standouts could ultimately alter the outcome of future matchups between these marquee programs, making a successful signing day paramount on both campuses. We examined the latest prospects destined to compete in this perennial clash between title contenders.

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Will Muschamp Needs to Lean on the Run If He Wants to Keep His Job at Florida

Conservative?

Florida has gone ultraconservative.

The Gators offense was effective on Saturday against Georgia, rushing 60 times and passing only six times in a 38-20 win over Georgia in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. Kelvin Taylor rushed 25 times for 197 yards and two touchdowns, while Matt Jones toted the rock 25 times for 192 yards and two more scores.

Of those six passes from first-time starter Treon Harris, only four were downfield according to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports.com.

Is that the start of a new offensive trend?

Being that one-dimensional in the SEC will get you beaten, but Florida has the luxury this week of tuning up against a Vanderbilt defense that ranks 11th in the conference in total defense (403.6 YPG) and is tied for 12th in yards per play (5.76).

Will Harris, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and head coach Will Muschamp open things up this week through the air?

"We have all the confidence in the world in Treon throwing the football," Muschamp said on Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference. "He's an accurate thrower. He's a guy who's certainly capable of doing whatever he needs to do in the throwing game, so we're going to game-plan what we need to do each week to win the game. If that means throwing it 40 times, we're going to throw it 40 times."

Unsolicited advice to Muschamp: Don't throw it 40 times this week against Vanderbilt.

Fifteen? Sure. Twenty? That may be stretching it.

Florida should be able to do its part if it gradually builds upon this newfound confidence in the running game against Vanderbilt this week, gives Harris a little bit more responsibility and then takes another small step against a South Carolina defense that's even worse than the Commodores.

That will get Florida in the position to win the SEC East, which is the first step toward Muschamp saving his job.

The SEC East title? Sound crazy?

It isn't.

The Gators still have a chance to win the SEC East if they win out, if Georgia loses to Auburn and beats Kentucky and if Missouri loses two of its final three (Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas), as long as one of those losses comes on Rocky Top. That would put all three teams at 5-3 in the SEC, but the Gators would have a 5-1 record in the division at that point and earn themselves the nod to Atlanta, according to three-team tiebreaker 2.B.

Would a division title alone keep Muschamp employed?

Maybe and maybe not. Closing strong and winning the East would be nice, but what if the Gators get worked by Florida State in Tallahassee to close the regular season and again in the Georgia Dome in the SEC Championship Game by the West representative?

That might be difficult.

The schedule sets up in a way for Muschamp to ease Harris into the role in important games, give him bits and pieces of the playbook down the stretch and, in a perfect world, be more multi-dimensional for the intra-state rivalry with the Seminoles and beyond. 

That's something that Harris would be fine with, according to Muschamp.

"We ran the ball for 418 yards [against Georgia] and didn't need to throw it," Muschamp said. "I told him after the game that 'When you're number is called, we're going to need to throw this thing.' His response was exactly this: 'All I care about is winning.' That's the kind of team guy you want leading your football team."

For Muschamp to stay employed, he needs to build on Harris' team-first attitude, build on the ground game success and only pivot over the final two conference games if the game dictates. The offense can then try some things in the tune-up against Eastern Kentucky and be two-dimensional in the season finale against the Seminoles.

The success on the ground has to be part of the identity—not the entire identity. Building that identity starts right now but will only successful if the Gators take baby steps.

Baby steps, perhaps, to the SEC Championship Game.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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College Football Playoff Standings: Week 11 Rankings and Bowl Projections

November is here, and in about a month, the College Football Playoff selection committee will choose its four-team field. For everyone else who's eligible, it's bowl season. 

Trying to predict bowl games is science no one can truly master, but it's fun to give it the ol' college try anyway. Predictions are based partially on what teams have done so far but also a projection on how they'll finish. Additionally, bowl pecking order isn't necessarily representative of where teams will finish in their respective conferences, just the order in which they're selected. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 10. The following slides contain bowl projections heading into Week 11. Below are links to the latest College Football Playoff, Associated Press and USA Today Top 25 polls. 

College Football Playoff 

Associated Press

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

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Michigan State Is Not Ohio State's Rival, but Urban Meyer Treats Them Like One

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In his numerous media availabilities leading up to his team's biggest game of the season, Urban Meyer has been careful not to feed the media's self-proposed storylines.

"We only have one rival," the Ohio State head coach has insisted. Yes, the color green is allowed—although not preferred—inside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this week. The Buckeyes' one and only rival is Michigan, and nobody else.

But if you really wanted to know how Meyer feels about Ohio State's upcoming opponent, this wasn't the week to ask. The 13-year head coach is too calculated to provide bulletin-board material for any team that the Buckeyes are about to face, especially as the national media locks in on a rare high-profile Big Ten battle.

Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped Meyer from providing a peak into his true feelings about the team that will be across the field from Ohio State on Saturday.

Two days after the Buckeyes were stifled by Virginia Tech's 46 Bear defense in their defeat at the hands of the Hokies on Sept. 6, Meyer was asked if he thought other teams would attempt to run the same scheme. Skimming through Ohio State's schedule in his mind, the Buckeyes head coach stumbled upon one who potentially could.

"I don't know if people have the personnel," Meyer said of opponents' ability to run the Cover zero scheme. "I know one of them does. The team that won the Big Ten last year does."

Michigan State

That's who Meyer was referring to, Ohio State's upcoming opponent who he would rather refer to by its accomplishments as opposed to its actual name. It's not all that different from his preference to refer to Michigan as "our rival" or more popularly, "That Team Up North."

In fact, in his two press conferences in between last weekend's win over Illinois and this weekend's upcoming contest, Meyer has mentioned the Spartans by name just once, despite being asked about Michigan State a combined 15 times. Maybe that's a coincidence, but anybody who's studied Meyer's career—or speech patterns—knows that those don't happen often.

But while Meyer has attempted to downplay the Spartans' official status as an Ohio State rival, he didn't downplay the importance of this weekend's game.

"What's happened in this situation is you have an excellent team. After watching them on film, they're a great team. And they stand in the way of a Big Ten championship," Meyer said of Michigan State, again not mentioning the Spartans by name. "Does that make them a rival? It makes them in the way of something that we all want, and that's a Big Ten championship."

That was also the case a year ago, when the 12-0 Buckeyes headed to Indianapolis for the conference title game with a trip to Pasadena and the BCS National Championship Game on the line. All that was standing in their way was a perceived overmatched Michigan State squad, riding an eight-game winning streak but facing a 5.5-point spread.

But from the moment the ball kicked off inside of Lucas Oil Stadium, you would have never been able to guess which team had more on the line. Marching up and down the field at will while containing running back Carlos Hyde, the Spartans jumped out to a 17-0 lead, threatening to slam the door shut on the Buckeyes' national title chances.

Ohio State battled back, reeling off 24 straight points, but when all was said and done, it was MSU hoisting the Stagg Championship Trophy after a 34-24 Spartans victory.

For obvious reasons, the loss hit the Buckeyes hard, as their winter travel plans rerouted for Miami and an eventual loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

“I’ll tell you what I’m not going to lie to you, I cried for, like, two days. It was tough and the whole team it seemed like after we took that loss it just took the whole soul out of the team. It was hard for everybody to get back and just kind of work hard," wide receiver Devin Smith said. "That game, us losing to Michigan State last year, kind of really messed the whole season up and really took a toll on all of us.”

While the Buckeyes struggled to bounce back following their Big Ten championship loss, Michigan State maintained momentum, picking up another signature win over Stanford in its subsequent trip to the Rose Bowl. The Spartans entered the 2014 season ranked in the top eight of both major preseason polls, and despite a Sept. 6 loss to Oregon, they currently sit in eighth in the College Football Playoff rankings.

"They're the king of the hill right now because they won the championship," Meyer said. "And you have to dethrone them."

Ohio State, meanwhile, has also bounced back from a loss in the second week of the season, reeling off six consecutive wins heading into Saturday's trip to East Lansing. Michigan State may not be a rival—at least not publicly to Meyer and his team—but this is The Game that the Buckeyes have been waiting for ever since last season came to its disappointing end.

“This is huge, and we checked this on our calendar just because of what happened last year," Smith said. "For it to be this way with both teams with one loss—man, it’s really huge.”

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Marcus Peters Dismissed: Latest Details, Analysis and Reaction

Cornerback Marcus Peters has all the makings of an NFL star, but the star junior's character may come into question as he was dismissed from the University of Washington's football team Thursday.

According to Adam Jude of The Seattle Times, the 2013 second-team All-Pac-12 selection was kicked off the team following an argument with an assistant coach during Wednesday's practice.

Peters was already suspended for one game earlier in the season due to a sideline outburst, and Jude reports that he has been at odds with head coach Chris Petersen all year.

While all signs already pointed toward Peters entering the 2015 NFL draft, this situation cements it, per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:

Although it is fair to wonder if NFL teams will be wary of Peters due to his inability to get along with the Huskies coaching staff, Miller reports that it shouldn't be a concern moving forward:

Peters has three interceptions this season after accruing a total of eight in his freshman and sophomore campaigns combined. He is a true ball hawk, and he will garner plenty of attention as the draft draws closer.

There is no doubt that his collegiate career has reached a less-than-ideal conclusion, but his elite talent level should prevent him from dropping too far on draft boards.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Marcus Peters Dismissed: Latest Details, Analysis and Reaction

Cornerback Marcus Peters has all the makings of an NFL star, but the star junior's character may come into question as he was dismissed from the University of Washington's football team Thursday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Tulane Coach Makes Players Hold Hands After Altercation in Practice

Tulane coach Curtis Johnson has no time for juvenile behavior.

During Wednesday's practice, right tackle Sean Donnelly and defensive tackle Tanzel Smart got into a fight. That's a no-no on a Johnson-coached team.

The Green Wave coach rejected mainstream punishment and opted for something a bit out of the ordinary. Well, it's common for Johnson but not for football.

Johnson made the two players involved in the altercation walk around the field for 20 minutes, hand-in-hand. The coach said he had never used the tactic on his football players but has used it on his daughters.

Johnson talked about the punishment to Tammy Nunez of The Times-Picayune:

Yeah, we had a little bit of an altercation and they kind of wasted some of my practice time so I took a different approach in disciplining them. If they want to act like kindergarten kids, then I just want to treat them like kindergarten kids. ...

But it was pretty effective. (They walked) actually until the coaches needed them so it was about 20 minutes. ... I pointed it out to the rest of the team. If they as grown men want to hold hands, that's fine, that's what you are going to do if you fight.

This form of discipline, unorthodox yet endearing, should hopefully quell any future brawls.

[Twitter, h/t FoxSports.com]

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Alabama and LSU's Battle for 4-Star LB Adonis Thomas

While most rivalries are formed through epic battles on the field, with SEC West titans Alabama and LSU, their wars on the recruiting trail precede those monumental clashes on the gridiron.

As Nick Saban and Les Miles prepare to meet for the ninth time, there will be several recruits, who are interested in both programs, that will be paying close attention Saturday night to the battle between both programs at Tiger Stadium. 

One such recruit is 4-star linebacker Adonis Thomas, who has both Alabama and LSU as two of his primary suitors after he decommitted from Florida last month. 

The 6’4”, 229-pound Thomas, who is ranked as the No. 11 outside linebacker in the 2015 class, is a player that both teams have high on their priority list.

With both teams having a bye last week, coaches from both schools were in attendance Oct. 31 at Thomas’ last game, according to Shea Dixon of Geaux247 (subscription required).

Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is leading the charge for Alabama, and he's laid the groundwork in getting Thomas to schedule multiple visits to Tuscaloosa over the course of November.

Thomas spoke with Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports (via Charles Power of BamaOnline, subscription required), and he is tentatively scheduled to be in attendance when the Tide plays Mississippi State and Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium later this month: "I think Alabama puts their players in the best position. They’re always looking for a way to win. At that point, all you want is to win. I want to win a national championship in college. Alabama is more stable than it is at Florida right now." 

The Tigers are squarely in the mix to land Thomas because of their due diligence in pursuing him even after his initial commitment to Florida. Power notes that their efforts are likely to be rewarded with an official visit from one of the best prospects in the Peach State.

"I’m taking my official down there December 5, I think," Thomas mentioned to Niebuhr. “After I committed to Florida, they never stopped recruiting me. They always hit me up and told me I was an important part. I feel like I’m a priority to them." 

Another thing in LSU’s favor is the fact that it has yet to receive a commitment from a linebacker in the 2015 class. By contrast, Alabama has two linebackers committed in its top-rated class.

Thomas also notes that Florida is still in the mix, despite the decision to reopen his recruitment:

However, given the new window of opportunity provided to Alabama and LSU—two perennial powerhouses in recruiting—the odds are likely in favor of him ending up in either Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge instead of Gainesville.

Saban and Miles have gone toe-to-toe for several high-profile recruits, and regardless of the result on the field Saturday, Thomas represents the next and perhaps most important battle the two will wage until national signing day.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Kyle Allen Has His Shot, and He Needs to Take Advantage vs. Auburn

Kyle Allen's debut as Texas A&M's starting quarterback didn't exactly mirror that of sophomore Kenny Hill's, who lit up South Carolina to the tune of 511 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener this year.

After Hill lost his job and was subsequently suspended for two games for violation of team rules, Allen came in against ULM and completed 13 of 28 passes for 106 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 21-16 win over the Warhawks.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin was careful not to give his young quarterback—who was the top-rated pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2014—too much of the playbook too quickly.

"There's a balance between what you ultimately want to do, and what that young man can handle," Sumlin said on Wednesday's teleconference. "The hard part for first time quarterbacks is to be able to communicate what they're comfortable with and what they're not. They're always trying to please you and feel like whatever the game plan is, they can handle. It's important, in that relationship, that they have the ability and courage to speak up at the end of the week."

That playbook better open up this week at Auburn for Texas A&M's sake and for Allen's sake; otherwise, the Aggies could enter the offseason with an interesting quarterback battle on their hands.

This isn't the kind of game that Texas A&M can compete in if they go ultra-conservative. Auburn's offense is averaging 498.1 yards per game, 6.98 yards per play and 38.8 points per game and is fresh off back-to-back games in which they've topped the 500-yard mark, including last week against the stingy Ole Miss defense.

"I think [Auburn head coach] Gus [Malzahn] will tell you that they want to start with their run game, run power football out of the spread, and then the play-action off of that has been deadly for a lot of different people," Sumlin said in his Tuesday press conference.

Auburn will force A&M into a shootout, and it'll be up to Allen to keep up.

If he can't, where does that leave Texas A&M?

The coaching staff made it a point to emphasize that Allen's ascension to the starting role had nothing to do with Hill's suspension. If Allen struggles for a second straight game, though, then Sumlin and his staff have quite an issue on their hands.

Hill isn't going down without a fight.

He hired former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury as his private quarterback coach, according to Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News, and intends to win his job back as soon as he can.

"It’s a critical, critical point in his career not only to win the respect of his coaches back and trust," Salisbury said on his Yahoo! Sports Radio show, according to Hairopoulos. "They respect him, Trust...and get back to trusting himself again that he can make these plays because he’s quite capable of it."

There's going to be a battle this offseason regardless, no matter who starts vs. Missouri, LSU and in the bowl game. This is Allen's time to shine. 

A strong performance on the road against Auburn will set the tone for Allen to take the job and run with it for the rest of the season and into the offseason, while a sluggish performance will send Allen, Hill and the staff back to the drawing board.

No pressure, kid.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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College Football Week 11: Top 25 Upset Alert

Week 11 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting of the 2014 college football season, with key conference matchups and College Football Playoff eliminators littered on the docket.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer blows the whistle and proclaims which Top 25 teams should be on upset alert.

Which contender will fall this weekend?

Check out the video and let us know!  

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Georgia Football: How the Bulldogs Can Avoid Another Upset vs. Kentucky

The Georgia Bulldogs are in a position they never wanted to be in, and that’s playing the chasing game in the SEC East.

The loss to Florida put the Bulldogs one game behind Missouri for the SEC East lead, but the one good thing about that is the Bulldogs have the tiebreaker over the Tigers because they won the head-to-head battle.

However, before the Bulldogs can worry about winning the SEC East, they will need to get past their next opponent.

The Kentucky Wildcats are much improved from what they were last season, with a 5-4 (2-4 in SEC) record. They have a lot of talent, especially on the offensive side, but they have lost their last three SEC games.

That includes a lackluster 20-10 performance against Missouri last week.

Faced with a team like the Wildcats, hungry for their third SEC win of the year, how do the Bulldogs avoid the upset?

The first thing the Bulldogs need to do is not let Patrick Towles get into any kind of rhythm. In the two SEC games the Wildcats won, Towles threw for two touchdowns, one interception and his quarterback rating was over 130.

In the four SEC games the Wildcats lost this year, he has thrown six touchdowns, four interceptions and his quarterback rating was an average of 114.6

Jesse "Nostradamus" Palmer, now predicting Patrick Towles "when it's all said done" will become greatest QB in UK history.

— Steve Moss (@smosswkyt) November 1, 2014

Towles is not very accurate. He has only completed 59 percent of his passes, and he’s not going to pick apart a defense because he has only thrown for 13 touchdowns this season.

However, Towles is a tough player, and he feeds off the rest of the offense. The Bulldogs need to be persistent and put pressure on Towles just like they did to Maty Mauk in the Missouri game.

On the flip side, the Bulldogs need to contain defensive end Alvin Dupree, who has emerged as one of the better defensive linemen in the conference.

Dupree has 5.5 sacks on the year, which puts him in eighth place in the conference. He also has 8.5 tackles for loss, which also puts him in the top 15 in the SEC.

Dupree can get after the quarterback, make plays in the backfield and move sideline-to-sideline. He has tallied 50 tackles on the year.

This is where offensive tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston come in.

Both players need to make sure to locate where he is any time he’s out on the field. Also, the Bulldogs will need to continue to pound the football with Nick Chubb.

A great way to counter a guy like Dupree is to either run the ball at him or use draw and screen plays to get him up the field.

The most important thing the Bulldogs need to do in order to avoid another upset is to punch Kentucky right in the mouth and continue to do it all game long. The Wildcats have lost three consecutive conference games, so the goal of reaching the SEC title game is done. However, they still need to win in order to become bowl eligible.

Florida punched Georgia in the mouth. The Bulldogs never responded. Kentucky will look to do the same thing because winning against a ranked Georgia team would be a signature win for Mark Stoops and his crew.

The Bulldogs need to jump out to an early lead and continue to put pressure on the Wildcats. That will get their morale down, and the Bulldogs should come away with a win in Lexington.

 

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Baylor vs. Oklahoma: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The Big 12 game of the year no longer, there is still plenty riding on Saturday's high-profile showdown between the No. 12 Baylor Bears and No. 15 Oklahoma Sooners.

Both preseason College Football Playoff contenders enter Norman Saturday firing on all cylinders after rebound performances the week prior.

Bryce Petty and the Bears dropped a 41-27 decision to West Virginia before blowing away Kansas, 60-14. Bob Stoops' Sooners did much of the same with a 31-30 loss to Kansas State before a 59-14 shellacking of Iowa State.

Two of the nation's most prolific offenses now meet with Big 12 and CFP implications hanging in the balance. It may not be Saturday's most noteworthy contest, but its result will weigh heavy in the minds of most after the fact.

 

History Beckons

For the Bears to obtain a share of the Big 12 title, the team has to win the rest of its games. For the Bears to simply survive a trip to Norman, repetitive words from Petty, via the team's Twitter account, better be quite accurate:

Petty is an elite player when healthy. Fans know this much. The numbers, which read 2,034 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to three interceptions, verify the statement.

But beating the Sooners in Norman is no simple task. In fact, the Bears have never won at Oklahoma, and the Sooners have a 21-2 series lead.

There is always a silver lining, of course. The Sooners have struggled mightily against prolific passing attacks this season, something Petty and the Bears do quite well. Baylor ranks No. 5 in the nation with an average of 349.0 passing yards per game and No. 1 overall in terms of scoring at 50.4 points.

Oklahoma ranks outside of the top 30 in terms of total defense, so Petty, in tandem with Shock Linwood (777 yards and 10 touchdowns), certainly has the talent to exploit a unit that struggles against air-raid attacks.

Keep in mind that Petty also has to concern himself with the fact that the program's schedule-making process means the season is essentially over if the team once again succumbs to the pressure of winning in Norman.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports puts it in a blunt manner:

History is there to be made for the Bears, but only if the roster can stay cool in a hostile environment while in the face of gaudy odds.

 

Reloading for War

To be clear, Oklahoma is no stranger to scoring in bunches, either.

But to keep pace against Baylor Saturday, the team is going to need to be loads healthier.

It starts with star wideout Sterling Shepard. The junior suffered a groin strain in last week's win on the first offensive snap of the game for his team while—get this—reeling in a 46-yard reception. Shepard is far and away one of the best wideouts in the nation and already has 50 grabs for 957 yards and five scores.

"The best way I'd say it now is we're optimistic that it will heal enough that he'll be full speed by the end of the week," Stoops said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

It is not so much just about Shepard being in the game, though. He will need to prove to be more than a decoy for the Sooners to keep pace. The same goes for top running back Keith Ford, who has missed the team's past five games with an injury but gives the Sooners a serious receiving threat out of the backfield.

Sometimes-shaky quarterback Trevor Knight (12 touchdowns to eight interceptions) has other weapons, such as tight end Blake Bell, who has caught three touchdowns over the course of his past two games. But things will surely go a lot smoother Saturday if Shepard and Ford are in the game and effective.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, Noon ET

Where: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma

Television: Fox Sports 1

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 73.5
  • Spread: Oklahoma (-5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Were this on Baylor's home turf, the end projection might be a little different.

But this affair goes down in Norman, which dramatically shifts the outlook. The only real negative for the Sooners at home this year came in a loss to Kansas State, but the No. 7 Wildcats tout one of the nation's best defenses, so the one-point loss in hindsight is forgivable.

Oklahoma has enough defensively to keep this thing close, which in turn will lead to one or two game-changing plays by a suddenly healthy crop of star offensive players in front of a friendly crowd.

Sometimes, history is just doomed to repeat itself.

Prediction: Oklahoma 40, Baylor 30

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Bowl Projections 2014: Updated Playoff Predictions Before Week 11 Showdowns

LeBron James would be proud. 

We have not one, not two, not three, but six Week 11 showdowns between ranked opponents on the college football calendar for Saturday. There is little doubt that the entire College Football Playoff race will look completely different come Sunday.

With that in mind, here is a look at some updated playoff predictions before looking at the Week 11 game to watch.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Mississippi State

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Alabama   

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal Winners) 

Criticize the fact that Florida State is winning by closer-than-expected margins all you want, but as long as the Seminoles keep racking up victories, they will be in the playoff field. They will do just that, and an undefeated resume from the defending champions that features wins over Notre Dame, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Louisville will be more than enough to make the postseason.

Alabama will also win out and capture the SEC championship. The Crimson Tide control their own destiny when it comes to the SEC title game now that Ole Miss has two losses, and Nick Saban’s team is just starting to hit its stride.

Mississippi State will have enough substance on its resume to make the playoff field, even with a loss to Alabama, thanks to wins over Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss. 

That leaves Michigan State. The Spartans will defend their home field Saturday against Ohio State and win the Big Ten crown. It will be enough to get them into the playoffs when Notre Dame and the remainder of the Big 12 contenders and Pac-12 contenders each lose at least two games.

 

Game to Watch: Kansas State at TCU

College GameDay may be in East Lansing for a showdown between Ohio State and Michigan State, but there is only one game on the Week 11 schedule that features two teams in the Top Seven of the College Football Playoff rankings.

Kansas State heads to TCU for a critical Big 12 showdown that will also serve as a virtual postseason elimination game.

Whoever falls short Saturday will have two losses, and there are simply too many one-loss teams remaining for a two-loss TCU or Kansas State team to climb back into the field. 

ESPN College Football pointed out the remaining schedule for each team, and it is crystal clear why this game is so important for TCU. If the Horned Frogs beat Kansas State, they will easily win out against weak opponents in Texas, Iowa State and Kansas, which could mean a spot in the playoffs.

Whenever a team that scored 82 points in a single game takes the field, the offense against the opposition’s defense will be a matchup to watch.

TCU is second in the nation with 48 points a game, and it is little wonder why. Trevone Boykin is a dual-threat quarterback who is second in the conference with 22 passing touchdowns. He will look to get game-changing wide receivers Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee in space early and deliver with timely deep balls.

Boykin and running back B.J. Catalon also spearhead a ground attack that ranks 33rd in the nation in rushing yards per game. 

TCU’s balance has been a problem for every team it has faced this season, but Kansas State brings a fundamentally sound defense to the table. Michael Felder of Bleacher Report recently praised the Wildcats for their approach:

That defense is 12th in the nation in points against at 18.6 a game, and it shut down Oklahoma State’s and Texas Tech’s attacks and contained Auburn’s lethal rushing game. The Tigers scored only 20 points, although it was enough to beat Kansas State.

While much of the focus will be on the showdown between Boykin and the Kansas State defense, something will have to give on the other side of the ball.

TCU leads the nation with 26 forced turnovers, but Kansas State has coughed it up a Big 12-low seven times. What’s more, the Wildcats are the country’s least-penalized team, so it will be difficult for TCU to rely solely on Kansas State’s mistakes Saturday.

Following the narrative, Kansas State’s Jake Waters has not thrown an interception in conference play, which allows him to find the speedy Tyler Lockett for big plays. Lockett is not the only weapon the TCU defense has to worry about, though.

Curry Sexton has made defenses pay for focusing too much on Lockett all year, and he has the speed to be a problem for the TCU secondary.

TCU’s turnover-hungry defense will have the help of the crowd Saturday as it tries to knock off Kansas State following losses to the Wildcats the past two years. Coach Gary Patterson commented on the home-field advantage, per Stats LLC, via ESPN.com.

 "I'm a happy camper," he said. "They have to come to our house. Because of our mindset, this will be a different team than they have played the last two years. Both of us can play ground and pound or play action. It's a different animal."

Even with a raucous crowd, Kansas State is the exact type of disciplined football team that will be a problem for TCU.

The Horned Frogs rely on turnovers to make defensive stops, but that will not be the case Saturday. Kansas State’s defense is also the toughest TCU will face all season, and the Horned Frogs’ dynamic offense won’t make as many plays as it is accustomed to, which could force it to tighten up as the game progresses.

TCU will have the home crowd on its side, but the Wildcats have thrived in those situations before and have won four of their last five road games against Top 25 opponents. One of those games came at Oklahoma earlier this year.

Kansas State will silence yet another home crowd Saturday. 

Prediction: Kansas State 34, TCU 31

 

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Oregon vs. Utah: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

There to catch the No. 4 Oregon Ducks after finally exorcising their Stanford demons are the pesky No. 17 Utah Utes, the perfect team to take advantage of a letdown and act as the team that throws the inaugural College Football Playoff into complete chaos.

See, Oregon is finally over the hump and back in the CFP conversation after blowing away Stanford last week, 45-16. That loss to unranked Arizona (now No. 19) back at the start of October is slowly becoming a non-factor.

Unless the Utes have something to say about it.

Kyle Whittingham's team enters angry after an overtime loss to Arizona State but has the defense to play with any team in the nation.

One of Saturday's finishing blows has the potential to be a classic and ruin the lives of pollsters and the CFP committee in one swoop. Grab some coffee and make it a late night.

 

Dynamic Warfare

If Oregon has its way, Heisman contender Marcus Mariota will help the team jump out to an early lead and never look back.

It is not an unreasonable thought by any means, really. Mariota has completed 68.1 percent of his passes this year for 2,541 yards and 26 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Against the hated Cardinal, he unloaded for 258 yards and a pair of passing scores, not to mention another 85 yards and two scores on the ground.

The problem is, if Mariota and Co. stumble out of the gate on the road against a defense that gives up just 21.3 points per game on average, they might just be at the mercy of Utes running back Devontae Booker.

Booker is far from a household name, but he should be, considering he averages 5.4 yards per carry and has 990 yards and eight scores. The coaching staff decided to give the junior more than 11 carries for the first time in the team's fourth game, and since then it has been bombs away:

Whittingham himself knows the deal, sarcasm or not, as captured by ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura:

The coin has two sides in a war of contrasting styles, of course. Oregon could just as easily jump out to that desired early lead and eliminate Booker from the equation.

It is the sort of chess match befit of a contest with such lofty consequences hanging in the balance.

 

Clipping the Wings

As hinted above, the Utah defense this season is one that should scare the Ducks. 

In fact, while finally overcoming Stanford is a great highlight, a description by ESPN's Ted Miller rings very true when it comes to comparing the Cardinal and Utes this season:

What has doomed Mariota and his offense more than anything this season? Pressure, as noted by the team's five allowed sacks in that loss to the Wildcats, which was a part of 12 total in just a two-game span.

Here is where the chess on turf gets even more interesting—the Utes lead the country in the sacks department with a jaw-dropping 39 to date. One of the main reasons for the wild success of the unit has to do with end Nate Orchard, as explained by ESPN's Kevin Gemmell:

But every offensive coordinator on Utah’s schedule schemes away from Orchard, and yet he’s still putting up huge numbers. And further, the guys around him (Hunter Dimick, Jared Norris, etc.) also have big numbers because Orchard makes those guys that much better. There are plenty of great individual defenders in the league. But Orchard makes an outfit that's already very good that much better. 

With Tyler Johnstone already out for the year with an injury, keep in mind that right tackle Matt Pierson sounds like he will be out of action, too.

It is a horrific time for the Ducks to face an elite defense, but this is the hand a CFP hopeful was dealt.

 

When: Saturday, November 8, 10 p.m. ET

Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

Television: ESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 61
  • Spread: Oregon (-8.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports per The Sports Network, via USA Today.

 

Prediction

Utah is a great program headed in the right direction. The Utes at home, at altitude, is a scary thought for any team in the nation. This goes twofold for the Ducks, as this is right around the time of year the team usually folds and championship aspirations go up in smoke. 

Not this time, though.

Oregon is playing the best ball of its impressive season at the moment. The offensive line is a serious concern, but getting Mariota to use his legs on rollouts has mitigated many of the issues in recent weeks, not to mention given the offense an additional boost.

The win will by no means come easy, but Oregon is a cohesive unit that has its eye on a trap game that a true contender will survive.

Prediction: Ducks 30, Utes 24


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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